Saturday, September 19, 2009

I may be naive, but I see it half full

I, like other commenters on my recent Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly post, also feel encouraged by the unit on The Butterfly Habitat Project my daughter is studying in her sixth grade science class. The second of the four units of study is called The Going Green Project where students will learn about natural resources and human needs, environmental issues, environmental change, and natural resources use. The third unit sounds physics-related, and the fourth unit is called the Solar Collector Project. In this unit, students will learn about different types of energy.

In the first paragraph of the course syllabus, the teacher writes: Welcome to 6th grade science. Are you ready to discover...

  • why we don't see the Maryland state butterfly very often? And how we can help?

  • why it is believed that the earth's climate is changing?

  • how bumpers are designed to save lives?

  • how to obtain and use clean energy?

A few months ago, my book group gathered to discuss the book Hot, Flat, and Crowded, by Thomas Friedman. He warns that Americans need to step up and lead in a worldwide effort to replace our wasteful ways with a strategy for clean energy, energy efficiency, and conservation.

Though not intended to make concerned human beings lose hope, the book does offer hard facts, thought-provoking connections, theories, and predictions. I was somewhat surprised to find that some members of my book group felt it was "too late" to affect any sort of positive change. Perhaps I'm naive, but I prefer to see the glass as half full. Here's the difference between me and some of the women in my book group that held the most vocal arguments: I work in a high school and have school-aged children.

I work in a high school where there are recycling bins EVERYWHERE. I think that even among kids, it would be hugely frowned upon to put a plastic bottle in a regular trash can.

I am a school counselor and always have many kids interested in classes offered at my school like AP Environmental Science.

Last year I read an amazing college essay by one of my students who dreams of creating a source of clean energy. Knowing the grades this kid earns, and the initiative this kid shows, I am certain he will work diligently towards this goal.

In May, one of my 11th graders asked me to sponsor his efforts to participate in our school system's Drive for Supplies program. At the end of the school year, students dropped off a total of over 16 boxes of gently used school supplies that were then redistributed to local and international non-profits.

I have a 4 year old in preschool who will be studying units entitled Our Peaceful Classroom and Garden Science. Though I haven't overtly taught her ANYTHING (she's the younger sibling after all...), she'll observe me tearing up a cardboard egg carton and ask, "Are you going to put that in your garbage-poster (compost bin)"?

I thumbed through the our city's fall catalog of classes. Our nature center offers a Jr. Naturalist program involving a series of 9 classes. Outside of this program, a purely "fun" class is offered called "upcycling" where kids will repurpose objects to make art.

Our city offers rebates for residents who install rain barrels.

Brookside Gardens, a beautiful garden near me, is hosting a Green Matters symposium that I, and hundreds of others, will attend in the spring.

Every children's clothing catalog and advertisement I've seen in this morning's weekend paper includes clothes with recycling symbols, or love-the-earth symbols, or peace symbols. Though I'm not too naive to know there is a big faddish aspect to this, I think it's impossible to wear these symbols and not have an inkling of their meanings.

I could go on.

We live in a time when global warming, environmental change, waste, etc. cannot be denied. The reality of these changes is such that there really is something to cry over. It is sobering at best. However, in the face of all this, at the end of a book like Hot, Flat, and Crowded or any other book that offers a grim, factual, and downright frightening look at what has happened and what people have done, I am encouraged by what I see around me. Everywhere I look, I see efforts being made to change the poor course we have been on. When a 4 year old knows you put certain materials in the garbage-poster, when an 11 year old spends at least 3/4 of the year studying environmental and conservation-related topics, when my high schoolers enjoy their AP Environmental Science classes and declare a passion for exploring clean, alternative sources of energy, I can feel confident saying that the glass is half-full.


  1. I see it as a positive indication that children are taught/expose to environmental awareness at such an early age. I also see it in the Disney cartoons. Nowadays, even cartoons are talking about green, and Mother Earth and teaching children how to be responsible for our environment. Hopefully, these children can in turn influence even their 'too late' mums and dads to change their mindsets.

  2. Hi~~ It is a matter of perspective isn't it? I think human nature is such that when handed grim news, we immediately look for solutions. Although none of us can do it alone, we can each do our part and feel good about it. I know I'm not the norm in stating that I'm still not completely convinced that our current climate change couldn't be a normal cycle. There is so much that science doesn't yet know. Hooray for the next generation. We can hope that they figure it out.

    I think what bugs me on a daily basis more than anything is seeing the huge trucks--semis, dump, cement or whatever--spewing forth ghastly amounts of black smoke as they accelerate. This needs to change. ... Thank you for visiting my blog.

  3. At the very least, I, for one, at least feel good about teaching my kids to go 'green' and become better citizens responsible for their world and I am thankful (finally!) that schools, churches, communities are taking it in stride too. You know, Wendy, you have the best influence there with your job so I applaud you for getting involved and putting on a positive spin...we CAN MAKE a difference!!

  4. I applaud your positive attitude..we won't get anywhere by being glum. Paul Hawkin has been working very hard on the issue for years, and says that the grass-roots efforts add up to the greatest movement the world has ever seen!

  5. Thanks for your comments ladies. I guess so far, no one has cared to disagree, so I will just remain cautiously, and actively optimistic.

    Autumn Belle - you're totally right about the cartoons!

  6. Somehow I missed this post, and it's a great one!

    I agree with you - the up and coming generations give me hope as far as the environment is concerned. They're living and breathing it from day one, our desire to make changes and keep the earth spinning for another few millenia. We, as kids, were vaguely aware that "littering is bad". Our kids understand intense environmental concepts such as pollution, global warming, pesticide and chemical use. My six year old knows how and why we garden and eat organically, and even the two year old knows what items can go into the compost bin.

    I'm glad there are moms like us who are imparting this knowledge, and I'm glad to hear the public school systems are doing their part in teaching the kids, too!

  7. I do agree that our kids need some awareness on green environment! Together we shall protect our earth!

  8. Wow - I have just discovered your wonderful blog and this fantastic post and just wanted to thank you for it. It's so uplifting to read all these positive signs of hope, particularly among schools and kids. It's a good sign indeed.

    Life in NYC can get very streets don offer recycling bins, office buildings simply don't recycle, and so many adults and kids I see in our neighborhood just don't seem to care.

    It's a real boost to read this post and to hear about all of the kids/schools/programs/people who can, will, and do make a difference.


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